Parenting Tip: Pretend Your Child is Someone Else’s

parenting tip: pretend your child is someone else'sI am officially a full-blown “boy mom.” I got an email from Charlie’s pre-K teacher. He hit another boy. My first reaction was hit him back, but of course you can be arrested for that now. I suppressed that urge, because I don’t look good in orange. My next impulse was to lock him in his room for a week, but that’s probably illegal too. No TV for the rest of his life? That’s a punishment for me. My girls were not perfect pre-schoolers, but this was my first time dealing with any sort of misbehavior involving another child. I wanted to scream at him, but at the same time, I wanted to hold him and protect him from himself. Motherhood is a journey of crazy, mixed emotions.

I recently counseled a friend on a little issue her child was having, I can say “little” because it wasn’t happening to one of my kids. In that conversation, I was the voice of reason, defending the actions of small kids and putting things in perspective for her. Why couldn’t I think the same way about Charlie? Maybe I could. Rather than overreact because of anger, guilt at raising a child who would hit, and even, embarrassingly, embarrassment, I considered the advice I would pass on if it were someone else’s child.

It went something like this. Yes, you have to take this very seriously when you speak with him. Yes, Charlie needs to know that was wrong, and he can never do it again. No, he will not become the school bully because of one incident. No, the other child will not hate him, nor will his mother. This does not mean he is a bad kid, just because he did a bad thing.

I took some deep breaths, sat Charlie down and pretended he was someone else’s child. He told me what happened, and started crying immediately. He said he apologized to his friend, they were still friends and he wouldn’t do it again. He seemed so little and sweet when I suspended my feeling of being responsible for all his words and actions. Charlie is his own little person, he will make many mistakes, and I hope I can help him learn from them. I spoke with the other mom, who was amazing and made me feel so much better. I went from feeling like I was going to be sick, to simply hoping it won’t happen again, just by pretending he had another mom.

The connectedness between mother and child is wonderfully intense, but it can get in the way of rational thinking and common sense. It works both ways. It can make us feel unreasonably accountable for our children’s mistakes. And, it sometimes puts on us blinders, so we can’t see our own child’s faults and shortcomings.

When you find yourself getting heated over an issue or a problem with your child, whether he or she is on the giving or receiving end, take a step back. What is the advice you would give to a friend? What would be your approach if you were given the task to discipline someone else’s child? There are moments, dinnertime and homework time specifically, when I wish someone else would parent my kids. And there are other times, times when calmer heads should prevail, when someone else could do a better job. Since we don’t have substitute parents on call, the next best thing is to take a deep breath, close your eyes, and pretend your child is someone else’s. I promise this will calm you down, allow you to think clearly and produce better results.

Too Good to be True? Beer that makes you look younger

collagen beerIt is FINALLY here … beer that makes you look better, younger even. This is contrary to everything I know about the beverage. In college, it was responsible for the bloated face and the freshman 15. Now, it is responsible for the occasional swollen eyes and the hard to loose last 5. Over the years, it has been blamed for more than a few poor decisions and a couple of kids. Now, they are telling me it has a chance to redeem itself. Now, after all we’ve been through together, beer is going to make me look younger!! You go, beer!

I wish that were true, but I’m skeptical.

The Japanese brewery Suntory, released a beer called “Precious” (which makes it sound like a stripper or stripper’s dog) that contains 2 grams of collagen per can. Collagen is a protein found in the connective tissue of our bodies; the bones, tendons, muscles and skin. It literally holds things together.

We hear about it a lot today as a beauty issue and product. Why do you get wrinkles and sagging? Your skin loses collagen as you age, especially after the age of 40, and these changes, we all resent and want to reverse, are the result. In response, companies have added to collagen to anti-aging lotions, dermatologists use collagen in fillers, and laser therapy aims at boosting our natural collagen production. Poorly advised actresses overdo it with the collagen to create swollen, pouty lips.

Can ingesting it directly provide benefit? Japanese women seem to think so. Reportedly, they are buying collagen supplements by the bucketful. The science says otherwise. Collagen is broken down after you eat it, and is not then in any form the skin can use to revitalize itself. Lotions with collagen don’t seem to work either, by the way. The molecules are too big to be absorbed.

Sorry! I wanted it to be true too! Beer, I will just have to continue to love you with all your flaws.

beer collagen

 

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning in the News

carbon monoxideIf the death of the man and seven children in Maryland has you worried about carbon monoxide, good. In this tragic case, in a home with no electricity, the culprit may have been a generator. Before you think this couldn’t happen to you, consider this. Each year, thousands of people suffer from CO poisoning and about 200 – 500 are killed (reports vary.) Carbon monoxide is silent, colorless, tasteless and odorless, making it impossible for humans to detect.

Early symptoms include: headache, fatigue, dizziness, shortness of breath, blurred vision and nausea. If levels of CO in a home are low, these symptoms can be confused with the flu and may go untreated.

Continued exposure will lead to: vomiting, confusion & poor coordination followed by loss of consciousness and death. High levels will lead to these symptoms much quicker, sometimes bypassing the milder symptoms completely. If a person is sleeping, they will be unaware of the poison.

Exposure to carbon monoxide can be even more dangerous for unborn babies, children and the elderly. If a person survives, but the exposure was serious, long term brain and cardiac complications may occur.

If you suspect you are having symptoms of CO poisoning, get into fresh air immediately. Do not delay. Call 911 as soon as you can.

Prevention

— Install CO detectors in your home, follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for checking efficacy and when to replace. Check the batteries (along with those of your smoke detectors) at least twice a year.

— Never run your car engine in an enclosed space. Never leave your car running in a garage attached to your home, even if the door is open.

— Adhere to directions on gas appliances, and never use them to heat your home. Ensure they are in a well ventilated area.

— Run generators only in well ventilated areas, and preferably when someone is awake to monitor them.

— If you have a fireplace, perform routine maintenance.

— Consult your utility company about checking gas appliances, including furnaces.

— Never use appliances designed for outside within your home, e.g. gas or charcoal grills, camping stove tops, etc.

Finally, never ignore the alarm on a carbon monoxide detector. You can purchase one for as low as $15. It could save your life.

 

 

Good News for Parents of Kids with Celiac Disease

celiac wheatAfter two family members were diagnosed with celiac disease last year, I took inventory of my own physical complaints. While mild and manageable, they matched up with symptoms typical of a gluten intolerance. I tested the diagnosis by giving up gluten, all the while anticipating I wouldn’t feel any different and would be able to go back to eating bread and pasta within a few weeks. I love bread and pasta!  Just a couple weeks after giving up wheat, I felt better. No more abdominal pain and no bloating. I leave a dinner table feeling satisfied but not ill. Additionally, I have more energy and my mood is lighter.

For me, it is a lifestyle change, but for those diagnosed with celiac disease it is life altering. Even 1/8 teaspoon of wheat can cause serious damage to the small intestine of a celiac sufferer. While it is easier than ever before to maintain a gluten free diet — the supermarket shelves stocked with options — it is still trying for people who can eat no gluten at all. Parents of children with celiac especially, agonize over the possibility of cross contamination and potential harm to their kids. On top of this, these moms and dads look ahead to a long life in which their son or daughter will always have to manage their disease. The only treatment being complete avoidance of wheat, barley and rye, they picture their kids always challenged when eating out. They imagine college life without beer — something most of us can’t envision. And, they fear a life of deprivation for their kids, with long term consequences if they are not always vigilant.

Most people agree the genetic altering of wheat and the changes to the way it is grown are what is causing the increase in celiac and gluten intolerance. It has been my secret hope scientists will be able to undo whatever has been done to our wheat over the past few decades to make so many people intolerant of it. Maybe it can be fixed? I don’t want to give up good NYC pizza and Corona beer forever. More than that, I want all the parents of kids with celiac disease to have something to root for — a reason to be hopeful.

Now, looks like they might just have that reason.

Farmers in Kansas are investing in research to find a way to grow gluten-free wheat. The Kansas Wheat Commission put $200,000 toward two years of investigation into understanding which parts of the wheat are causing the sensitivities. We need t-shirts that read, “GO KANSAS!”

Perhaps other organizations will follow suit. Gluten Free wheat would be a huge money maker. As many of us know, the GF products on the market are expensive. We are often paying double for a product alternative, which is not nearly as good as the original. What I wouldn’t pay for a sandwich on real bread!

So, if not just for the benefit of those who suffer with wheat sensitivity, than for the potential for huge profit, I think more farmers and agricultural societies will jump on board. Gluten Free Wheat — now that sounds delicious! Maybe your kids will be able to go the kegger after all.

 

Ten Ways to Maintain your Sanity and Your Dignity During Spring Sports Season

spring sportsEach spring brings with it warmer and longer days, brightly colored, fragrant flowers popping through the thawed ground and the music of the birds returning home. It is a perfect season, full of promise and hope. Most people embrace it after the long, harsh winter, but if you have children who play sports, spring is full of some other things too. It promises longer practices and fluctuating game schedules, bright colored, smelly uniforms popping up all over your house (except, of course, for the one you need right now) and the shrill sounds of crazy parents screaming from the sidelines. With five kids — each one slightly overscheduled, making for a really overscheduled family – I look at this season like I looked at the third trimester of pregnancy. It is just something I have to power through. My goal is not to actually enjoy it, but rather to get to summer without losing my mind, my dignity or worse, my perspective. Here are ten tips and reminders to help you muddle through this beautiful, chaotic, trying season of kids’ sports.

spring sports

  1. Carpools are your friend. Set up carpools early in the season and include as many kids as you can legally fit in your car – maybe even squeeze in one more. We parents, need as much help as we can get, and if you give it, you will get it.

spring sports

  1. Toss out the guilt. You do not have to be at every game. You are not a better parent if you witness every toss, catch and kick. Your children will enjoy being able to give you their version of what happened, instead of waiting for your take on the game. By missing a few, you’ll send the message this is not overly important to you, and help to reduce the extreme pressure kids today feel. And, you will be a calmer, better parent overall.

spring sports

  1. Prepare for games and practices the night before, so the morning doesn’t find you tearing apart the house, screaming at your child and running late. Sports are supposed to be fun, and mornings like these only add to everyone’s stress.

spring sports

  1. Speaking of fun, repeat after me, “It is just a game. It is just a game.”

spring sports

  1. Don’t talk about the coach, the other players or the referee in front of your children. Preferably, don’t talk about them at all, but if you have to, make sure you are in an adults-only zone. Badmouthing the coach encourages your children to undermine authority, being critical of other children teaches your children it is o.k. to be hurtful and blaming the ref teaches your children to be sore losers who don’t respect the sport.

spring sports

  1. Do not engage or associate yourself with fans generating bad energy. There is nothing wrong with watching a game from a distance, by yourself, with music in your ears and a Starbucks in your hand. If you enjoy watching your child play, watch your child play.

spring sports

  1. Leave the game on the field. Take your child’s lead. If he or she wants to talk about it in the car home, let them, but refrain from overemphasizing the importance of a hobby. School is the only activity in which they have to participate. It is unhealthy for your child to think the success of their pastime is extremely important to you.

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  1. Remember this always: Your child will not play a professional sport. For the .001% of you for whom this statement is wrong, my apologies.

spring sports

  1. Follow the 24 hour rule. It will save you from sounding like a lunatic and embarrassing your child and yourself. If you are unhappy with your child’s coach for any reason, do NOT address them after the game. Wait a full day for cooler heads to prevail, and if you still want to have the conversation, then set up a mutually agreed upon time to talk. I promise it will be calmer, more productive and more respectful on both ends.

spring sports

10. Encourage your children, but stop there. Do not coach, criticize or complain from the sidelines or in your home. The game is theirs to play. You had your chance. Sports can be valuable to children, but only when their importance is kept in perspective. No one wants to be the kid of the crazy parent.

FDA Approves a Powdered Alcohol … Yippee! Or Ummm, UhOh!

A powdered alcohol, was approved by a federal agency yesterday. My initial thought was, wow, that’s pretty cool. I pictured the astronauts enjoying a well-deserved post moon walk cocktail, a hiker sitting atop a cliff after a long climb mixing a little Palcohol powder into his water, and me, on the beach at sunset with some friends enjoying a little easy to carry happy hour. Oh wait. Shoot! Easy to carry … alcohol … kids … the possibilities are endless.

Growing up, we hid alcohol in the bottom of our overstocked shoulder bags and even in hair spray bottles. Teens today hide it in water bottles and in zip lock bags stuffed in their bras – what security guard is going to risk looking there? Kids are creative when it comes to drug and alcohol use. They are going to have a field day with this one. Even I, out of practice in under 21 year old espionage, have some ideas the most savvy parent or security guard would likely miss. This could be a problem.

I am not alone in my concerns. The criticisms of Palcohol include not only the accessibility for children, but the potential for abuse and the increased ease of drink spiking. The manufacturers of the product address and refute these possibilities on their website and claim much of the opposition is being driven by big business alcohol. They argue, “There shouldn’t be a double standard. One doesn’t ban a product because of irresponsible behavior by a few. “ Still, a few states have already banned the sale of Palcohol.

I’m sure the lawyers hired by Palcohol are making very good, sound arguments, ones my rational side would have to agree with. But, from the mom (often irrational) perspective, I see this product as just one more thing to worry about. With one teenager and two preteens in my house, I’m no stranger to worry. I’ll just add this one to the list.

The take away for me, as a parent, shouldn’t be Palcohol = danger. The take away should be underage drinking continues to pose a real threat. Instead of railing against an interesting, now legal, product, I will take the steps shown time and again to decrease the chance my children will engage in risky behavior.

– Open communication about drugs and alcohol needs to start early.

– Check in with children often about their social life and possible struggles. You don’t have to be their best friend, but stay interested and involved.

– Rules and boundaries should be fair, but they must be enforced.

– Family dinners are a must.

– Being vigilant about the warning signs of addiction is critical.

I don’t think Palcohol will significantly increase the risk my children will participate in underage drinking. It will though, be added to the conversation immediately.

Do you think it comes in chardonnay flavor?

Ovarian Cancer — the Silent Killer … or is it?

It is ovarian cancer awareness week — for my sisters and me at least. Our mother’s birthday was this past Sunday, March 1st. We should’ve woken that morning with a slight hangover and a happy afterglow from the successful 70th birthday party we threw her. She was a woman worth celebrating, and there is no doubt her 70th would have been an event.

Mommy

My mom at 60, two years after her diagnosis.

 

Instead, I woke with an all too familiar pit in my stomach and ache in my chest. Seven and a half years later, the shock of her death can still bring me to my knees. Most days, I have a low-grade generalized feeling of loss, but every once in a while … Bam! I’m brought back to 2007, and the pain is present and acute. I’m brought back to the irrational and useless feelings of anger, bitterness and confusion.

Why her? She was active, thin, healthy and eternally happy. She never smoked, drank Pinot Grigio occasionally, but stopped when she “got that funny feeling”, and was never ill. She had four children — pregnancy is supposed to be protective. Her parents lived to 97 and 102. So why, at 58, an age that to me seems younger and younger each year, did she develop a tumor on her ovary? There’s no good explanation, which is something I must simply accept. As my mom, Madelyn, would say, “There are mothers with young children who are dying from this. This isn’t about what’s fair.”

Had it been discovered while still confined to her pelvis, she would’ve had a chance, a good chance. It was only after cancer cells travelled to her diaphragm and lungs, divided and grew into more tumors, did she experience some shortness of breath. This prompted a visit to a walk in clinic, assuming a diagnosis of pneumonia and hoping for an antibiotic to clear things up. She had a friend’s party to attend the next day. About 24 hours later, with a stage 4 ovarian cancer diagnosis, life, as we knew it, was over.

I wonder incessantly if she had been more of a complainer, more selfish, more egocentric, would she have noticed the subtle symptoms of her illness earlier? Would she have noticed them early enough to save her life?

What might my mother have been feeling? As a gender, we have a tendency to downplay our aches and pains, focusing on the needs of others and our families. How often do you hear a mom say, “I am too busy to get sick.” Fighting through a cold might be noble, but ignoring warning signs can be fatal.

– This year, it is estimated 21,290 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer and 14,180 women will die of the disease.

– Currently, there is no routine screening for ovarian cancer.*

– Symptoms include:
– bloating
– pelvic or abdominal pain
– difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
– urinary symptoms including urgency or frequency

Other symptoms, which are considered less specific, are fatigue, indigestion, back pain, pain with intercourse, constipation and menstrual irregularities.

These may be vague, but they are still real symptoms. Is ovarian cancer the Silent Killer or is it the Ignored Killer? Ovarian cancer grows and spreads very quickly. Too often it is diagnosed in its later stages because we women overlook the signals our bodies are sending, or we try to tough it out. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms consistently, if you have a sixth sense something is not right, PLEASE talk to your doctor. It is a conversation which could save your life. Share this with the women you love!

 

* Since publishing this article, I’ve been asked if there are tests for ovarian cancer. The answer is yes. There is a blood test which looks at a marker called CA125, but it is not specific for ovarian cancer leading to a lot of false positives. A pelvic ultrasound (sonogram) will detect a tumor on the ovary, but it is not performed routinely at your GYN visits.